Fantasy fiction, television

House of the Dragon is Better Than Game of Thrones, And Here’s Why

Recently I watched season 1 of the Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon. I had originally decided I wasn’t going to watch it because, a) I no longer have HBO, and b) like any rational person, I’m still upset about that ending. Although I knew the book prequel was in fact published (I’ve shelved the damn thing), and the showrunners aren’t pulling their material out of thin air, I was still not feeling it for a visual adaptation (even one starring Matt Smith).

Anyway, here’s the short version on why I changed my mind: One day while sorting returns at work, my eye fell on the new release DVD of HotD, and the rendering of the dragon behind the Iron Throne and one of Dany’s ancestors, about the same age as Dany was herself at the start of GoT. In a heartbeat, I was reminded of what we all loved about the original series — sharing the journey of a young woman simultaneously blessed and cursed with a great birthright, and everyone else trying to take it from her.

I was hooked from the beginning. I watched all 10 episodes in 2 days. I thought about each plot point constantly when I wasn’t watching. I couldn’t imagine the agony of having to wait a whole week between new episodes when it first broadcast. I had to know what would happen next.

In short, I loved it, and I need season 2 NOW.

I liked it more than Game of Thrones. And this is coming from someone who genuinely appreciated some of the plots/themes/storytelling in both the books (yes, I have read them) and the OG show. BUT, GoT always gave me (many) reasons to hate it, too (even before we reached the extremely problematic finale).

I could write an entire separate post on this (maybe one day I will), so here’s a brief recap of the stuff I won’t ever forgive GoT for:

  • The CONSTANT violence against women and children. There were seasons when we couldn’t go a single episode without seeing some poor woman raped or a child murdered. There was less brutality in the books, so they can’t even claim it was sticking to the source. And I didn’t need to witness every bit of every incident, either. It was why I skipped a majority of seasons 4 and 5. ENOUGH, ALREADY!
  • The absolute lack of rationale on the part of, well, practically everybody. In the books, there were only a handful of people clamoring for the Iron Throne, and it was always someone who believed they had a legitimate claim through original royal lineage (like Dany), or through the altered succession brought about by the coup (like the Lannisters and the Barentheons). In the show, the fact that pretty much any small-time knight with a parcel of land to his name decided he had the right to grab for the crown just became silly.
  • The way nobody ever seemed to think it necessary to explain things to the audience. When you adapt a book to the screen, you have to assume many viewers will not have read the original stories, and it’s clear GoT‘s showrunners didn’t understand that. The ONLY reason I knew who was related/allied to/hated each other, and why, was because I looked up the family trees on Wikipedia before reading the books. On screen, there was so little explanation of the connections I missed almost all of it, and was totally lost until I did the research.
  • Because you couldn’t follow 90% of what was going on, you couldn’t get invested in the seasonal subplots. I skipped entire character arcs because I was bored. I didn’t care about what’s-his-name from where’s-it doing something terrible to who-the-hell-is-this-again-and-how-does-it-matter. The books went into ALL the details, and yes, that means they’re behemoths, but they’re behemoths that make sense.
  • Of course that ending. No logic plot-wise, totally breaking character for EVERYONE, major deaths happening offscreen, and ending on the MOST DEPRESSING, STUPIDEST note EVER, by crowning an arrogant kid with NO royal blood and sending the RIGHTFUL king to the Wall.

*Deep breath* Okay, so, on to House of the Dragon. *Warning: Spoilers!*

The show starts off by establishing it’s taking place about 6 generations before Dany, and the current setting is during the rule of Viserys the Peaceful, so called because the Seven Kingdoms remained together and largely without war. We’re introduced to the present king — who is apparently slowly going insane — and his family, which at this moment consists of his very pregnant queen, and his only living daughter, Rhaenyra. Of course, it goes very badly for the queen, and not only do both mother and child not make it, the king is left without the hope of a male heir. And we all know in worlds set in medieval times, this is considered a BIG problem.

This show is shot on a smaller scale than the original, meaning there are only a couple of big battles, and many of the effects are saved for the dragons (which are AWESOME). There is considerably LESS graphic violence against women (thank God!), and child death is few and far between and mostly offscreen. The explicit violence is absolutely still explicit, so be warned for that. But even the profanity was toned way down (it’s like the directors had a limit for f-bombs and really objectionable swears!).

It wasn’t surprising to me that Viserys goes against the grain and names Rhaenyra his successor. What did intrigue me was the lack of public outcry about it. When it happens, the lords (and ladies) that don’t really approve keep their opinion quiet, and the competition for who will become the future queen’s husband is on. This hints at some major long-game playing here, and that’s what the original show lacked. The only OG character with a clear long game was Dany; the Lannisters and the Barentheons and all the northern lords didn’t have a plan for civil war breaking out, or the people of King’s Landing rejecting them, or if another nation invaded, or, or, or. In Westeros’ past, everybody was quite aware that if there was more than one challenger to the Iron Throne, the entire system could come crashing down, which is bad for all of them.

Despite there being a whole lot of minor characters, there was a bunch of dialogue that explained who was who, who meant what to the king, and who is in control in what area. The scenes of the Green Council meetings aren’t filler; they give us vital clues as to who will stay loyal to whom, and who will probably switch sides and create later conflict. I appreciated this so much after 8 seasons of GoT pronoun-and-nickname-gaming.

The first round of the long game goes to Lord Hightower, who encourages his daughter, Alicent, to befriend the newly-widowed king, and the friendship becomes more, and the king eventually marries Alicent. It is a little uncouth by modern standards, as Viserys is about 40, and Alicent is only 16 or so, but, again, medieval times, different cultures (and, remember, it’s fiction, folks). From the perspective of Alicent’s father, Lord Hightower (who believes Westeros will never accept a woman ruler and wants to avoid civil war), it’s a stroke of genius. Indeed, pretty soon Alicent starts having children, and she does give the king a son — by many views, the obvious, real heir.

But the twist is that Viserys won’t hear of changing his succession, and he continues trying to find Rhaenyra a proper future prince consort. The next issue comes up when there are indications towards Rhaenyra and her uncle (the king’s half-brother, who we know very little about) getting involved in the “odd custom” (yup, think Cersei and Jamie). Viserys doesn’t like that at all, and when his brother Daemon does ask to marry Rhaenyra, it’s a flat-out no, and the king arranges a “more suitable” match for his daughter.

However, Viserys’ choice is a disaster waiting to happen — it’s his distant cousin’s son, who is secretly gay, and therefore very unlikely to produce heirs for the kingdom. A whole lot of drama does occur in the future (sooner and later) because of this unfortunate pairing. And, again, it all goes back to people doing what someone else wants because of trying to avoid a war. As the episodes progress, it’s clear that war will become inevitable.

It’s time for a tangent on how much I love Rhaenyra. This princess is totally badass, determined to hold on to what’s hers by right, and refusing to play to stereotypes about her gender. She tries to play nice even with the people she’s worried are plotting against her. She knows her cousin’s secret, and agrees to keep it, protecting his life and his family’s reputation. She finds a lover — an honorable knight — and maintains a discreet relationship, producing grandchildren for her father and the royal line. Later, when people guess something’s not solid and start questioning who really fathered her children, she doesn’t cave to pressure and doesn’t sell out her fake husband or her lover. (The truth is uncovered through a network of devious spies in the castle, and it’s pretty obvious they’d sell Rhaenyra herself down the river, given half a chance.) Despite suffering significant personal losses, Rhaenyra rises strong at the end, ready to defend her birthright, even though it means challenging her own half-brother for the Iron Throne.

And, no, I know we can’t get around the “odd custom” issue as being problematic; and while I don’t deny that, here’s why I feel it’s not as straighforward ewww and ick as, yup, Cersei and Jamie. In some cases. Yes, there’s actually a range in this show. For several reasons. Bear with me.

Rhaenyra’s mother was from a family in Riverrun, so that’s no previous relation to Viserys. Cool. Since Rhaenyra doesn’t “couple” with her arranged husband, and her lover is from a noble family outside of the Targaryen line, that means her first, second, and third sons got a diverse mix of DNA. (And I really like the way her in-laws still consider those kids their grandchildren, although everyone knows that biology-wise, it’s realistically not true.)

Then, when Rhaenyra and Daemon do wed later on, yes, he’s said to be her uncle — but, according to an early episode, the nobility knows Daemon is Viserys’ half-sibling, at best, and I had to wonder (more than once) if the real reason so many of the lords are so resistant to the idea of Daemon being granted any higher rank or power is because he’s not really a Targaryen. The only “proof” we’re given of Daemon’s parentage is that someone told Viserys this was his half-brother — that’s literally it. And at one point, Daemon openly refers to himself as a “bastard second son,” so that means his heritage has probably always been uncertain. So, maybe the bloodlines of Rhaenyra’s fourth and fifth sons aren’t as entwined as we might think.

Besides, when you consider that initially Viserys and Alicent were both extremely adverse to the notion of marrying too closely within the family tree…and then as the king descended further into madness, and Alicent deeper into desperation and paranoia, they wed their oldest son to their youngest daughter — EWWWWW!!! ICKKKK!!! That’s so much worse than Rhaenyra and Damon (especially if my theory is even close).

Here’s the other thing I majorly appreciated about the storytelling, even with the controversial themes and morally iffy characters — all of the main players in this complex long game were easy to sympathize with. Unlike GoT, where eventually I wanted to see almost everybody die (except for Dany, Jon Snow, and Tyrion), I don’t believe there’s really a villain here.

Viserys went mad, something that probably couldn’t have been prevented. Alicent was the pawn in a system that was always going to use her purely as a means to an end. Rhaenyra has to fight tooth and nail against exile at best, death for her whole family at worst. Daemon never wanted to be king, never tried to take anything from Viserys, but has to constantly prove his loyalty; and, yes, there is a dark side to Daemon, and you do have to wonder how far he might go to save himself or his loved ones, given the circumstances. But, again, consider the fact that everyone is against him and he has been surrounded, for years, by those who would see him not just fail as prince, but be dead.

All the lords who choose Aegon over Rhaenyra when Viserys dies are definitely perpetrating a sexist system; but they’re also trying to keep their own houses safe, in a world where forward thinking and change really isn’t a thing; so if saying so-and-so is king and somebody else isn’t means thousands of lives are spared, you can hardly blame their reasoning.

If anything, the villain in House of the Dragon is itself; the corruption within a system that the Targaryens helped to build; the greed from certain family members for ultimate power; the lengths some people will go to achieve their own selfish ambitions. There are plenty of characters and plot moments I haven’t even touched on here, mostly because it would make this post waaay too long. Suffice it to say, if you don’t mind the well-deserved R-rating, like high fantasy, historical fiction, and/or were ever invested in A Song of Ice and Fire, this is absolutely worth a watch.

I’m already so excited for season 2 — and hoping and praying these writers acknowledge the past sins of their colleagues, and give this story a sound, fitting ending, one worthy of Dragonriders.

entertainment, television

The Invisible Moth Watches… Part 2

So, in recent months, I definitely have not been watching many new releases or even paying much attention to the hot movies or shows; mostly because I saw or heard just enough, thanks to those few unskippable ads on YouTube, to convince me there wasn’t a lot out there that matched my tastes right now. But lately, a few pieces stood out to me, and although my access to streaming services is extremely limited, I do have the ability to use the regional library catalog, and that means I don’t have to wait until I can afford to buy the DVDs. This definitely worked to my favor because I got to see Violent Night and House of the Dragon without spending a penny. Oh, and I caved to Muffin’s encouragement, and watched Wednesday, too.

Violent Night was so much fun! I’m aware there are very split views on whether violent Christmas movies are actually “okay” or not, but this is certainly not a film meant to be sentimental or romantic or sweet. The entire premise is that bad things happen to good people, and that the power of optimism and maintaining faith in something bigger than yourself, even in the face of terrible circumstances, can pay off. Maybe it was the mood I was in that night, but watching Santa Claus tan some bad guy hide really hit the right note. Between the very deserved R-rating and the concept, I know this definitely won’t be on everyone’s list, but if it is on yours, it’ll be a blast!

Bullet Train and The Lost City were also library DVD grabs. Having watched both of them within a week, I absolutely stand behind Sandra Bullock and Brad Pitt having cameos in each other’s movies for the next 10 years, and giving us tons more of those adorable platonic BFF vibes in these brief but totally awesome scenes. On their own, each of these films were definitely campy, but again, a lot of fun, and there were still some good points in Bullet Train about family and friendship loyalty, and in The Lost City about not judging a book by its cover, literally, and regarding people.

I’ve never been a huge fan of The Addams Family, but I do remember the movies from the 90s (no one think too hard about how old I am, pleeeeease), so I know the main characters and some of their major traits. This meant I didn’t dive into the deep end of Wednesday without a clue. And, when it comes to keeping up what people expect from these beloved characters, yes, I think the show did a pretty good job, especially for the title character, Uncle Fester, and Thing. (THING! More on him in a bit.)

BUT. As with any updating of a classic story, there might be problems, and when it comes to the plot, Wednesday has about a MILLION of them.

For one, taking such an established canon world as The Addams Family, which turned the tropes of monsters-in-the-human-world on its head, and making the premise of this show about as cliche as possible — there’s a boarding school! with vampires! and werewolves! and just generic weirdos who need a place to fit in! — makes me shake my head more than a little. Also, of course both of Wednesday’s parents attended Nevermore — of course that was where they met — and of course the current Headmistress has a questionable past with Gomez and Morticia. Sigh.

Not a single grumble about the casting for Wednesday and Morticia; both Jenna Ortega and Catherine Zeta-Jones were fantastic. And the complicated mother-daughter relationship portrayed works because it comes across as authentic here, not just for drama. But it also isn’t, well, necessary. Particularly when the episode where the families come to visit the school give the impression that all the kids have “complicated parental relationship” issues, and then it feels even worse than cliche — it’s repetitive. If Wednesday was the only one who didn’t get along with her family, and Enid’s mother wasn’t a jerk, and the siren community wasn’t manipulative, and Xavier’s parents didn’t have high standing to worry about, and… It was literally the same old, same old for every secondary character, and it meant I barely paid attention to the subplots (evidenced by the fact I can’t even remember some of their names or what their particular concern was, since it all just blended together, and promptly faded away).

The whole plot of the Hyde, and who the monster really is, is so convoluted that it makes very little sense by the time we get to the big reveal in the season finale. It’s one of those times where, if you think about it too hard, the whole thing just falls apart. People’s motivations don’t make sense, the connections to the school and past students and families don’t really work, and the concept behind the ghost that appears to Wednesday was simply ridiculous. The idea of an Addams ancestor being part of the Puritan witch hysteria in colonial New England does not measure up at all — especially because somebody states Gomez’s ancestors were from Mexico, something that I don’t ever remember hearing before, and there were no Mexicans in colonial New England. It isn’t bigoted, it’s factual to state this. Such a mistake by the scriptwriters, the directors, and the editors is just sloppy, or arrogant, and really ticked me off.

I did keep watching to the end, partly because Muffin had already watched the whole season and raved about it (he’s only 8 and more forgiving of tropes and errors, after all), and he wanted me to do the same. The number of times I rolled my eyes went up more and more with each episode, but I do have to say, the flashback in episode 6 with the young Gomez and Morticia was great. Those actors, for all of their 10-minute screen time, had excellent connection and a grasp of the characterization and the meaning of the moment they were showing the audience. Honestly, I’d watch a spinoff season about Wednesday’s parents’ time at Nevermore starring those two. That’d be fun.

The other super-bright spot for me in this really tangled web of Addams Family spinoff was Thing. Thing being so protective of Wednesday, guiding her, helping her learn to trust her new friends, all without saying a word (naturally, as he’s just a hand) was so good. Enid’s bond with Thing, Uncle Fester’s history with him, Thing arranging Wednesday’s date to the dance with the boy he knew she really liked… Just, THING! It’s fair to say he was my favorite character.

And now, just a bit about House of the Dragon (since I’ll probably write a whole post about this pretty soon).

House of the Dragon is even better than Game of Thrones. The storytelling is deeper, more straightforward, a lot less symbolic and rambling on about side tangents designed to make us realize how terrible 95% of the people in this world are. Since it’s a prequel, there are plenty of familiar families and places, but going back about 5 generations helps us to find out who was truly seen as good and bad, and we finally get all the divisions spelled out, and why. The audience at last — without having to Google it — gets to see where the Targaryen family tree split, and how sides were picked among the houses of the nobility. Although it was harder to follow some of the minor characters, and I missed the grander worldbuilding among the various cultures that we saw in the early seasons of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon makes sense, and when I was so lost for much of the previous 8 seasons in this universe, that was such a refreshing change. And even the characters who are meant to be bad, or morally grey at best, I could understand their motivations and watched with great interest to see what became of their plans. There’s also a LOT less graphic sex in the prequel, though the violence was even upgraded a bit — which is saying something! — and these shows absolutely remain TV-MA. Also, there were distinctly less dragon scenes, which feels a bit ironic for a program titled House of the Dragon. Oh, well. There’s no way there won’t be a season 2, and here’s to hoping and praying these writers learn from the sins of their colleagues, and keep the storyline concise and rational.

And that’s all for today! Have a great week, everyone!

reading, television

How It Should Have Ended

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All right, because I am me, there will be a lot of whingeing in this post, and I’m already begging your forgiveness by introducing it with a picture of a cute puppy.

And this will be a rather controversial post. Why? you may ask. Because of the subject matter, and the extremely subjective views I’m about to put in it. Why the controversy? you’re probably now wondering.

Today we’re discussing where some of my favorite series disappointed me.

It’s subjective and controversial because not everyone will share the same ideas about what makes good entertainment, and sometimes we get very heated over it. But, hey, this is my blog, so my perspective reigns here.

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about how I’d change the stuff I didn’t like about these series, and I wanted to make a post about it; but I was a little worried about backlash I may get. So, disclaimer time:

A.) These are my thoughts, and you’re allowed to disagree, but you need to do so respectfully.

B.) And if you aren’t caught up on The Hunger Games, Shadowhunters, Supernatural, or Grey’s Anatomy, for once I am not holding back on spoilers. So if you want to be kept in utter suspense, you may choose not to read forward.

Okay. Let’s do this…


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I did not want to read The Hunger Games. I fell prey to the massive hype. I should’ve stuck to my gut feeling.

Book 1 sucked me in, though, and while I had mixed feelings, I plowed ahead.

By the time the Capitol sent Katniss back into the Arena, though, I was pretty done.

Wanting to see the evil empire defeated, though, I finished the trilogy.

And then desperately wished I hadn’t bothered.

To me, there is something intensely wrong with having your heroine marry a guy who tried to kill her. Truly, I don’t believe the excuse of “Oh, he was under mind control” should fly at ANY point.

And the fact that Prue died ANYWAY…after all Katniss suffered to prevent it…I just CANNOT with that. It’s like the entire story was absolutely pointless from the very beginning.

So, here’s my alternate Hunger Games/Catching Fire/Mockingjay:

Katniss and Peeta (gets to keep his leg) return to District 12. Emboldened by the brewing rebellion, District 13 comes out of hiding, drawing other downtrodden areas into the spirit of revolt against the Capitol. When the next Hunger Games is announced, several of the districts send Tributes that are “plants” from the rebellion, and they sabotage the Arena and take down President Snow. (The despicable Alma Coin doesn’t even exist in my version.)

Meanwhile, Katniss is sensibly sorting out her silly love triangle, and she makes the right choice — Gale. Peeta (no ridiculous mind control involved) volunteers for the civil war, and dies for something worth fighting for.


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Yes, I am quite aware Supernatural has another season to go before wrapping up. But for me, it’s nowhere near soon enough.

I had watched this show for years. I’d even go so far as to call myself a devoted fan… Until the start of season 11, that is.

Anything that happened after that (except for the episode shot from the POV of the Impala) does.not.count.

I cannot bring myself to care anymore about characters I loved for nearly a decade…because it’s just gone too off the rails.

I was 90% on board through season 10. The Mark of Cain arc was just great. But the thrown-in subplot of the family Stein really fell short in my eyes, and something in me began to sense a sort of unraveling.

In retrospect, I really think the writers could’ve altered the last 15 minutes of the last episode of season 10, called it quits, and it would’ve been one of the most amazing finales in TV history.

Here’s where I would’ve deviated from the established canon:

Instead of Dean killing Death, the Mark of Cain gets removed right before he swings that scythe. Knowing that he can’t carry out the deal Dean has just made with him, Death leaves, but on the condition that the next time the brothers die, that is IT, don’t make him hunt them down.

Cass has to kill Rowena, knowing she can’t be trusted with the amount of power in the Book of the Damned. (I’d still be sad about that, because I loved Rowena, but it would’ve been fitting.) Cass and Crowley make an agreement, that angel and demon status quos need to return to normal, so no more making bargains with the Winchesters and upsetting the balance so much. If Cass wants to remain the brothers’ wingman, that’s up to him, but Crowley is out. (As much as I love Crowley as well, the running joke about him being boys’ lackey got a bit tedious.)

The last scene can be set, say, 5 years in the future, with the Men of Letters bunker full of new recruits, being trained by Sam and Dean. 


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Self-five for this past summer and fall, when I successfully made it through every.single.season of Grey’s Anatomy released on DVD as of 2018. (Hint: It was 12 of them.) Well, I’d never really seen it, and I like Patrick Dempsey. It turned out I got hooked on the whole show (with a few exceptions).

However, by about mid-season 9, I was beginning to feel jaded. And by the end of season 11, I went from, “Holy heck, this is impressive television,” to, “Make it stahp!”

The final straw? Derek Shepherd’s woefully inadequate death scene. It was so undignified for a character that had helped carry the whole premise since day one.

And the time jump that happened afterwards…well, I think it took the writers’ brains to an alternate dimension.

So here’s my editor’s red pen for Grey’s:

Instead of Derek dying, Meredith finally figured out that staying in Seattle would mean sacrificing her marriage, and she moves to Washington D.C. so Derek can pursue the most amazing opportunity a dashing neurosurgeon was ever offered. The finale would be wrapping up the other characters’ storylines in Seattle, and showing Meredith and Derek with their kids in D.C.

(Actually, there are a BUNCH of things I’d change about certain seasons or characters. But that’s also a whole other post.)


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My biggest complaint about all the Shadowhunters series is, interestingly, also the most condensed: There are simply too many books in this universe. The Mortal Instruments could completely have stopped at a trilogy. The Infernal Devices could easily have been a one-off. Same for The Dark Artifices. Rather than recycling plots and just changing characters’ names (sorry, folks, but that’s sure how it looks by now), the author could’ve been trying to create new worlds and new tales. I don’t even have an alternate ending for most of these…because my only wish is that it came faster.

Again, all these opinions are my own, and if you love any or all of these just the way they are, go nuts being you, lovely human.

But I am soooo grateful for freedom of speech.

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entertainment, television

The Trouble with Modern Television


All right, prepare yourself for a whole lot of whinge, and potential spoilers. I’ll tell everybody right now, if you’re not caught up on the most recent seasons of Supernatural, Riverdale, or Grey’s Anatomy, there may be problems reading this post. Unless you don’t care about the spoilers for any of these shows. Or, er, others… Consider yourself well and truly forewarned…

So, not too long ago, I discussed how modern television programs are really letting me down. Maybe I’m feeling the effects of my age (being over 35). Maybe it’s because the TV I grew up on wasn’t yet riddled with plot device cliches, or character tropes we’d all seen a hundred times. The TV shows of the 1980s and 90s (and I was a kid then, folks, so I’m not that old) were, in terms of special effects, yes, rather lacking, compared to what we view today on our phones. However, most of the time, I didn’t care — because the TV shows I grew up with had plots that worked, characters that were endearing and easy to cheer for, writing that wasn’t chock full of overt political commentary, and stories that — if you were the creative sort yourself — made you want to write something that good.

The 90s was also the era in which we began to witness the major cultural problem of shows carrying on too long, just for the ratings/money, and the writers/directors/actors getting burned out, so the scripts turned to garbage, and the integrity of the whole program went downhill (at 50 miles an hour).

Unfortunately, it was also the era of current events issues beginning to enter the dialogue of sitcoms and dramas a little too much. While I’m not an expert on this particular medium of entertainment, as a writer, and a viewer, there’s plenty I observed, especially as an adult, and I shall be waxing lyrical about it here.

So, one of the concerns for parents when I was young was the idea that their kids would see, or hear, something on TV that, maturity-wise, they weren’t ready to. It was one of the main reasons programming over a PG-13 rating generally wasn’t broadcast until after 8 p.m., when really small people had gone to bed and wouldn’t be conscious for the possible swear words or brief shot of a woman in a bikini, or the scene where the cheating husband got murdered. Of course, this leads straight into my next point, that most of these things were edited, so that we’d only see the bikini for about 15 seconds, the murder would be intensely unrealistic, with some stunt guy just yelling, “Aaaahh!!” and falling down, and the worst anybody would say before 10 p.m. was, “Damn it, they got away!”

Now, before we get any further into this, I want to state, for the record, that I don’t approve of censorship. I don’t think simply banning an idea, or a style of filmmaking, or TV-show-making, is actually effective. (Generally banning something only makes people want to do it more, because apparently the human race is like that.) Are there things that I think are unnecessary in television programming? Absolutely. Do I think there are subjects/content that will appeal to a wide audience, but that should have their place and time (literally)? Yes.

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So, here we go, onto one of my chief complaints: In most PG-13-rated shows post-2010, there seems to be an intense lack of decency.

I’ll spot Riverdale on the stand as my Exhibit A in this case. For those of you who don’t know, Riverdale started as a show based loosely on the characters/setting from the Archie comics from the 1960s and 70s. As someone who never read the comics (who never read comics at all, apart from Peanuts and Garfield), I had no idea who the characters were or what their premise was. I did a little research prior to the season 1 premiere, and found that it was basically a classic example of high school life in the 1950s, very apple-pie, white-picket-fence, totally unrealistic middle-class America of a bygone age. I couldn’t see how any of this would relate to modern viewers, so I started watching, out of pure curiosity.

And I have to say, season 1 of Riverdale is brilliant. It takes all those metaphors I just used, and turns them on their head. It adds diversity, it shakes up the established culture of a small town in the middle of nowhere, with murder, conspiracy, corruption, and tons of drama. It’s juicy, it’s exciting, it’s a guilty pleasure. And throughout, we’re reminded that the main characters are just teens, dealing with stuff they shouldn’t have to, and their innocence being shattered is palpable to the audience. The cautionary tales that arise from putting themselves in dangerous situations is important to include, and rings true. 

Then the season ends on a cliffhanger (grrrrrr, STOP doing that, producers!!), and when we get more than a few episodes into season 2, we see it’s all going to the dogs. Teenagers are running around, vigilantes trying to solve crimes, carrying guns and joining gangs. The adults are either horrifically corrupt, disgustingly clueless, or have no backbone to stand up to the dark forces taking over their town. There’s a completely unnecessary amount of violence, nudity, and sex (among the adolescents). The plot makes no sense after half a dozen episodes. Well before the end of season 2 arrived, I was barely keeping up with the new broadcasts, and I’d grown so dissatisfied, I highly doubted I’d care if season 3 was announced. Well, it was, and here’s the verdict — I won’t be watching it.

Next on the evidence stand I present (sob!) Supernatural. I LOVED Supernatural. The relationship between the brothers, Sam and Dean, was awesome — plenty of sibling rivalry, they played pranks on each other, argued over not listening to the same album in the car again; then they’d go out monster hunting and absolutely have each other’s backs, no matter what. The fact these guys saved so many people, risked their lives countless times, literally died and came back more than thrice — all in the name of continuing to fight the good fight, it was so heartrending. And the secondary characters were all so good, too — their complicated past with their dad, John Winchester, their foster father, Bobby, the tragic loss of their mother early on; perilous love interests that proved to be bad for them, dodgy alliances with Crowley and Rowena, the twists of the angels not always being the good guys — all of it was just… Well, I kept watching this show for years.

And because of the subject matter — fighting demons, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and mythical monsters that liked to kill humans — we all knew this would be a program that would require a strong stomach. So, really, nothing they threw at the audience — in terms of blood and gore, epic demon battles, exorcisms, all the religious questions that naturally come with this territory — bothered me. I was either expecting it (and so at times would just look away from the screen), or I appreciated the writers’ willingness to tackle such topics as angels and demons, the fall of Lucifer, the war in Heaven, the Mark of Cain, whether God actually hears our prayers, Purgatory, resurrection, and so much more. For a long time, this was the only show on mainstream TV that was discussing such things.

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Then season 11 happened. And I basically stopped watching. Too much occurred in the plot that didn’t just pose interesting muses on theology — it took accepted doctrine (from both Christian and Jewish cultures) and threw it out the window. In a very non-subtle way. And then (from the few episodes I saw of season 12 and 13), the confrontational style only grew more intense. What Supernatural had going for it before — its lack of getting mired in the political soapboxes of the day — completely vanished by early 2017. And it made me sad.

How did a show that made me laugh out loud and cry like a baby — so often within the same episode — just disappear seemingly overnight? The actors are the same, the characters have the same names, but I swear, this is no longer the Supernatural I spent the past 5 years catching up on. Cue the tears of despair and frustration.

What drives earnest creative minds, who have survived the ravages of Hollywood’s limits and stringent censors, to walk away from something truly entertaining and beautiful that they fought so hard to write, act, direct, edit? Is it just the pressure of the industry, the fickleness of the public, the way money talks in this field and if you can’t get it, your production suffers? I think it’s a combination of all this, and something else, something new to our society.

While television has consistently been a platform for raising awareness of cultural issues that need to be addressed, never has the discussion been so one-sided as it is nowadays. Forcing actual comments in the media about gun control, the environment, or abortion into the dialogue of fictional characters is blatantly attempting to brainwash your audience. What the hell happened to having a character who found themselves in a difficult situation — such as an unexpected pregnancy — and having the episode be about the options available to them, and how their decision might affect the other characters? Not simply, “The network says we have to present this view, so we are.” That is not the mark of a society that values free speech.

So, I honestly think part of the reason more balanced shows seem to be slipping out of the current schedule is because some of the people who make such programs are feeling burned out, and tired of fighting with the present network administrations. I have no proof of this, it’s just a theory. But it makes sense.

Here we come to my next big point in this treatise: People in the industry — writers, directors, actors, crew — do appear to be developing burn-out. Partly, the lack of new ideas on even the cable networks indicates the folks who come up with original stuff can’t find such a notion using satellite GPS and the Hubble telescope. And this usually means they are stressed, worn out, or traveling through India. My guess is it’s the first and second.

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So, here we come to my Exhibit C: Grey’s Anatomy.

I got into Grey’s Anatomy late — the end of season 12, to be precise. I was incredibly bored and tired during Muffin’s naptime, and I wanted to just get off my feet and ignore the chores for 2 hours. So I jumped on the streaming services, and found that people were flailing over the season finale of Grey’s, and I thought, “Hey, I’ve never seen this, why not?” A couple episodes into season 13, and I was hooked.

Then I began seeing various comments on social media, from long-time fans who were growing disillusioned with the show. I did a little research on the official Wiki site, and realized just how much I’d missed. So, about a month ago, I went to the library and checked out the DVDs of season 1-5.

And I can now concretely say, OH. MY. GOSH. The storylines were so much better in the early years, the writing and editing so powerful, the characters so alive and fully fleshed-out. I shipped folks, I gasped in shock, I burst out laughing, I wept. While there were some things I didn’t agree with (in terms of my own spiritual and social convictions), I honestly felt free to disagree with it, and just enjoy the rest of the show. Not that I was being coerced into seeing the issue from exactly the same point of view as perhaps the director, the writer, or the network.

However, in current broadcasting, now we are on to the end of season 14. And the bubble has burst.


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The new TV season begins this fall, and here’s what I will be doing while it is on: Not watching it. I’ll be reading, or watching PBS (their nature and history programs are still pretty, remarkably unbiased), or surfing the internet. I’ll happily re-watch DVDs of old X-Files series, and movies I’ve seen a dozen times so I know I’ll enjoy it. I truly don’t feel I’ll miss out on anything.

Doctor Who lost me when they broke all the rules of time travel with the 11th Doctor. Making the 12th Doctor a nasty, angry “I’m with her” social commentary trope just made me mad. Now that it’s been set in stone the 13th Doctor will be a woman — playing straight into the hands of several current political agendas — I’m not even going to bother. Just to clarify — I have nothing against this actress, and I genuinely wish her the best, and hope she gets fantastic companions and scripts. But I am SO. TIRED. of having the news headlines shoehorned into what’s supposed to be entertainment.

When I watch TV or a film, I do it to escape. Yes, there are extremely important unpleasant stories that need to be told. But why do they have to hit you over the head with it? Why can’t we have nice metaphors and allegories, like in the original Star Trek, or Lord of the Rings?

I gave up on most dramas ages ago. I don’t even care for many historical fiction shows anymore. Same for a lot of sci-fi, even fantasy. And the last time I watched a sitcom — apart from 3 months ago, because there was one in particular I was curious about — was 7 or 8 years back.

Seriously, I. AM. DONE.

Thank you so much for making it to the end of this quite long post! Any thoughts to add in the comments?

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entertainment, television

My Newest Fandom (And Why I’m Not Even Ashamed)

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First off, to answer the above question, my newest fandom is The Walking Dead. And here’s why I’m not ashamed, though apparently I’m supposed to be: Because a major part of the subject matter is zombies, and apparently being a Christian and watching zombie films don’t go together.

Hmmm…well, yes, and no. Zombies are gross, there’s no denying that. Physically, because they’re dead, there’s a whole lot of natural decomposing going on that is icky. And, yes, disposing of them requires some messy and violent means. If you choose not to watch a program like The Walking Dead for personal reasons of not getting near the moments of yuck, you won’t hear any argument from me. (In fact, there have been scenes where I’ve had to look away from the screen, even knowing it’s all special effects.)

But I also find TWD fascinating and compelling, and I am totally hooked; the setting of a zombie apocalypse poses some extremely in-depth moral questions for the characters and the viewers.

Zombies are absolutely terrifying monsters — they have no human intelligence or soul left, you can’t reason with them or appeal to their “better nature.” They simply exist, and are driven purely by primal instrinct. The zombies of TWD are really stupid as well, with no sense of self-preservation; they’ll keep literally plowing forward, trying to eat you, even when there’s a tornado/cliff/truck/machete coming their way. (At least most animals run away from humans when threatened.) All of this creates monsters that you love to hate — and sometimes, almost feel sorry for.

And of course there’s the human survivors, the actual people. How do they get through such necessarily violent circumstances without losing their own humanity? In a world where ethics may no longer be black-and-white, where’s that line they can never cross?How do they find the strength to keep going? And for what purpose?

This is a story with plenty of gray areas, and I love that. White Fang started watching the show before I did (and, yes, I let him), and the number of serious discussions we’ve had in the last few months about right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, how to tell the difference, and what’s the line you just don’t step over is awesome. No, I don’t support all of the writer/director choices regarding certain content, and I explain that to him. And if he was any younger, I’d say, no way, you’re waiting to watch this show.

But I am actually glad he introduced me to it. I’ve seen the ads for years, always cringed at the zombies (it’s far from my favorite genre), and never tried it myself. Eventually, though, I began to wonder — based on the fan references I’d come across on social media — if I was missing out on something.

Part of the reason I started watching the DVDs of past seasons with White Fang was parental duty; part of it was curiosity.

I have gone from literally peering between my fingers at the screen, to yelling at the top of my lungs, “GET AWAY FROM THEM, YOU CREEP!” In a totally fangirl way.

Here are some reasons why… (Disclaimer: I promise nothing about avoiding possible spoilers. If you’re behind on the current season, consider yourself forewarned.)

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Daryl Dixon is amazing. If Daryl was a real person, I’d 115-million percent want him in my corner. He’s flawed, he has regrets, he’s not that great at opening his heart. But he is still INCREDIBLE. He never lets the odds beat him. He KEEPS GOING, no matter what. Most of his struggles are private, which can make getting close to him a little tough, but when it really counts, he turns into open book. And while he’s an ACE with that crossbow, and knives, and guns, he doesn’t take joy in killing the zombies, and certainly not in killing people. He’s great with kids, isn’t after tawdry flings, and has some of the most endearing brotherly relationships with most of the other main characters.

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Carl. Just, Carl. Watching this young man grow (the character and the actor) through the seasons is just…wow. The son of the major protagonist, Sheriff Rick Grimes, Carl goes from being a slightly babied-by-his-in-denial-mother kid to a maturing teenager who can really hold his own. The recent (mid-season 8) plot twist with Carl had White Fang sobbing like a baby. I got plenty choked up myself — but mostly because of the legacy Carl will have, rather than concentrating on the moment of tragedy.

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In this story, not all romances are insta-love or simply lust. Take Rick and Micchone, seen above. There are fans massively shipping them (White Fang and I included), but no one would say that their road to potential romance was obvious. They weren’t even sure they could trust each other at the start, and over time their friendship developed, and then a deeper bond became clear, and it’s all so…lovely. Rick is a widower by the time Micchone enters the story, and she was out there, surviving the zombie apocalypse all on her own, with her kick-butt samuari sword and her wits. They both needed something greater than their sole purposes in this life. And watching them come to rely on one another, and how Micchone won’t hesitate to put Rick in his place (which sometimes he really needs) is great.

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Platonic male-female relationships abound. The wonderfully sweet bond Daryl and Carol have is my exhibit A. Carol was an abused housewife, so trusting others, especially men, doesn’t come easy to her early on. As her friendship with Daryl grows, we see absolute proof that love comes in many forms, and not everything on TV has to end with a fade-to-black bedroom scene. Carol and Daryl’s bond is much more like an aunt-nephew type, and they both gain tons from their friendship. (So do the viewers.)

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There’s still hope. Optimism for the future is epitomized by Carl’s little sister, Judith, who’s born after the zombie apocalypse has started. Of course she’s innocent and knows nothing of the seedier aspects required of those around her to keep them all alive. But at a time when things are pretty damn bleak, Judith’s very presence reminds us not to give up, to hold onto faith, to hope. To the thought that one day we can get through all this crap, and make life better for our children.

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A good example of a Christian on a mainstream program. This would be Ezekiel, leader of Kingdom, a settlement that’s trying to provide survivors with a “normal” life. Ezekiel doesn’t turn to violence first, he shows compassion to his enemies, and encourages people to become more than they believe they can. He’s also not preachy, he leads by example of his own behavior. I so love that.

And, yes, he has a pet tiger, Shiva. She’s CGI, but she rocks.

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Not all the villains are completely evil. The Governor really is, and I skipped several episodes from season 4 because I simply couldn’t stand seeing any more of him. And Terminus…well, seeing that go up in literal flames was purely justice. And the Wolves…well, aaaaarrrrgggghhhh. And I’m still on the fence regarding Jaydis…

However, the character of Negan, whom many fans find downright despicable and are eagerly awaiting his exit, is one I find excellent for demonstrating gray areas. Yes, he is not a hero, he has made some extremely dodgy moves, and he was introduced as a source of conflict for our protagonists. But the thing I love about Negan’s character is (and the actor deserves BUCKETLOADS of credit for portraying this brilliantly) the number of complex levels to him. The possibility for redemption is huge with this one. As much as Darth Vader, I’m telling you. (I could probably write a whole post about this subject on its own.)

So, while I understand that not everyone will appreciate this fandom, I stand by my place in it.

And, for the record… My weapon of choice would be the crossbow. And if I got bitten, I’d want Daryl to take me out.

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